2020 Women of Distinction - Career

 

This award acknowledges an Old Girl who has achieved significant and sustained success in her chosen career.

The Nominees are:

Lybbie Hillman (Manning '65)

Jennifer Taylor (Hogg '72)

Jenny Shaw ('76)

Leanne Nickels ('87)

Mimi Kwa ('91)

Sophie Spartalis ('93)

Jacki-Lee Munckton (Gillett '97)

Ara Salomone (Casella '01)

Madge Thomas (Mukund '01)

Back to 2020 Women of Distinction Winners and Finalists


Lybbie Hillman (Manning '65)

Lybbie has been very successful in the field of medicine, combining clinical excellence, academic research, community involvement and mentoring of students and graduates.  
Upon graduating from St Mary’s, Lybbie studied medicine at the University of Western Australia and graduated in 1973 after being awarded the prestigious AMA Gold Medal in 1972. During her medical degree, she also undertook an honours degree in physiology and was awarded a Bachelor of Medical Science (Honours) in 1970.
Using the German language she studied at St Mary’s, Lybbie undertook postgraduate training in Germany, which was where her interest in endoscopy was aroused and, on her return to Australia, she started on the pathway to achieve her goal to become a gastroenterologist. This specialist training was completed in New Zealand (where she was the only female clinical trainee) and she also successfully completed a Doctor of Medicine.
On her return to Canberra in 1983, Lybbie joined a specialist medical practice and was a director until retiring from private practice in 2019. She set up two independent endoscopy centres and has been a director and chair of both, as well as being responsible for organising training programs and national accreditation. As a result, she was appointed as a Practice Quality Review Assessor by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. Lybbie was thrilled to be elected to the ACT Medical Board in 1994, and subsequently became Vice Chair of the Board and Chair of the Professional Standards Committee. All this while raising three children!
Lybbie continues to be passionate about teaching and has mentored many students, GPs and nurses. She now is semi-retired and is currently working in the inflammatory bowel disease clinic at The Canberra Hospital and mentoring registrars in specialty training. She feels extremely lucky to thoroughly enjoy her daily work and the challenge that comes every day of trying to improve her patients’ lives.
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Jennifer Taylor (Hogg '72)

Jennifer was Senior Day Girl at St Mary’s and went on to complete a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Western Australia and a Master of Criminology at the University of Melbourne. Jennifer put her own professional aspirations on hold for the first twelve years of her marriage to raise her children and support her husband’s career which took them all around the globe.
On her return to Australia, Jennifer built a successful career in Victoria in various positions as a solicitor. Her current role of Regional Legal Prosecution Specialist in the Victorian Country Koori Court requires Jennifer to coordinate cases for trial in regional courts lists throughout Victoria as well as attend court in the major regional centres of Victoria.
With the ever-growing population of Victoria and subsequent elevated crime levels, Jennifer’s focus on the regional judiciary has more significance than ever. Regional areas are often neglected and Jennifer’s loyalty to those areas is extremely important. She is particularly concerned about the people who have not had the opportunities that she had growing up and has developed a deep understanding of the consequences of sociocultural influences on individuals.
Jennifer is also involved with a community cycling group that meets weekly and she acts as a mentor to other St Mary’s Old Girls who are studying law at the University of Melbourne. Jennifer is no stranger to loss and trauma which she experienced in a short period of time many years ago. Throughout this time, Jennifer continued in her professional capacity and to care for her family and her community.

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Jenny Shaw ('76)

Jenny received a scholarship to attend St Mary’s which gave her an opportunity that would not otherwise have been possible.
During her years at St Mary’s, Jenny took on many challenges presented to her and was elected Head Girl in her final year. Following her Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree from the University of Western Australia, she began a career in fisheries and marine science, a field that has been a lifelong passion.
Over the course of her 35-year career, Jenny has distinguished herself in areas of applied research, academia, policy and management in both government and private sectors in Australia and overseas. Jenny is currently Research Director with the Western Australian Marine Science Institution and has published extensively in a wide range of areas. Jenny completed a PhD at Curtin University where she instigated and led a project to increase knowledge of climate change in the commercial fishing industry. Her work received international attention and was highly awarded. Jenny has been a member of multiple state and national boards, including a ministerial appointment as one of the first women on the powerful Rock Lobster Industry Advisory Committee.
In 1998, Jenny became a founding member of the National Women’s Industry Network Seafood Community. As recognition for her service to the organisation, she was made one of only four life members and was inducted onto their inaugural Honour Roll.
Jenny has been a mentor for a number of highly successful women in the industry and has worked quietly and tirelessly to give women a voice in a male-dominated industry. For her long and outstanding voluntary service to the seafood industry, she was recently inducted into the National Seafood Industry Hall of Fame.

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Leanne Nickels ('87)

Since graduating from St Mary’s in 1987, Leanne has achieved an LLB (Honours) from the University of Western Australia and a Master of Labour Law and Relations from the University of Sydney. She is admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Western Australia and High Court of Australia and is admitted as a solicitor in New South Wales.
Leanne achieved partnership at a national law firm in 2004, at which time she was also seven months pregnant with her first child! She was only the second female to achieve partnership whilst pregnant and one of the first to then work flexibly on her return from parental leave. Leanne has mentored women lawyers through the Women Lawyers’ mentoring scheme and her emphasis has always been on women balancing family and career within the legal profession.
In 2017, Leanne took on the role of Office Managing Partner with DLA Piper (a global law firm) where she was responsible for 100 staff, and she continued to promote opportunities for women to network with other women from different industries. Since 2014, she has been recognised as a ‘Best Lawyer’ for employment law by the Australian Financial Review and is a well-regarded speaker, often being asked to present on issues relevant to both employment law and women.
Leanne has also made a significant contribution to women affected by domestic violence and homelessness and has worked with Zonta House Refuge Association for over ten years, volunteering her time on the Board in various positions, including Chair.

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Mimi Kwa ('91)

Mimi was awarded a scholarship to attend St Mary’s and believes that it was her education that provided her with an incredibly strong foundation to succeed in all aspects of her life.
Mimi attended the University of Western Australia and completed a Bachelor of Arts (Architecture), before undertaking a Bachelor of Arts (Broadcasting) at the WA Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), which set her on the path to a cadetship with the ABC and led her to her current career.
Mimi is a freelance writer, reporter and news anchor and is active across a broad range of media. She has been a regular face on the ABC and Channel 9 for twenty years, interviewing celebrities, politicians and corporate leaders. She has written for magazines such as New Idea, and presents TV commercials for national and global brands as well as hosting docu-series on SkyTV.
Mimi also features in Wentworth on Foxtel as well as the international Stan series Preacher. She is a BMW ambassador and presents video content for organisations including NAB and the Victorian Parliament. Mimi is also is a media and public speaking consultant and MC.
If you think that’s busy, add in four children! While waiting around at soccer, footy and dancing, Mimi has written her first book, a memoir called House of Kwa due for release with Harper Collins in May 2021.
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Sophie Spartalis ('93)

Sophie believes that the wide range of activities, subjects and leadership opportunities she participated in during her time at St Mary’s, played a pivotal role in shaping her into the successful businesswoman she is today.
Sophie graduated from the University of Western Australia with a Bachelor of Engineering/Science (with first class Honours) and proceeded to specialise in the resources industry, first as a management consultant and then in investment banking.
Today, Sophie is Senior Equity Research Analyst with the Bank of America. With over 17 years’ experience of working in equity markets, Sophie’s long-standing career success and stock-selecting ability was recognised in 2019 where Sophie ranked #1 in Metals & Mining and #2 in Diversified Financials. The Australian Financial Review covered the Awards, choosing to focus on Sophie’s achievements in the traditionally male-dominated industries of investment banking and mining.
Sophie serves on the Australian LEAD committee – an internal women’s network encouraging leadership, education, advocacy and development, and has presented on a panel for International Women’s Day. Her work requires her to travel extensively to international financial markets to talk to institutional investors, speak at conferences and visit mine sites.
Sophie believes that resilience and motivation are the keys to her 20-year career. She was made redundant following the birth of her first two children, and while many women leave their career during this life-altering phase, Sophie’s resilience and determination drove her back to continue on her successful and rewarding career path.

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Jacki-Lee Munckton (Gillett '97)

Reinvention, adaptability and continuous learning. These are the hallmarks of Jacki-Lee’s career and she has accomplished much across an array of industries whilst juggling work with motherhood. She has worked across different countries and for multinational corporations including Sky News London, Crown Perth and BHP Billiton Iron Ore.
Following her degree in Mass Communications, Journalism and Marketing from Curtin University, Jacki-Lee cut her teeth in journalism in the newsroom at Sky News in London. Upon her return to Perth, she joined Crown Perth as a Senior Marketing Coordinator before accepting the role of Communications Director at Fluor SKM Iron Ore Joint Venture, where she managed all communications across the project. At its peak, the joint venture had a workforce of over 5000 employees.
After over three years with Fluor SKM, Jacki-Lee reinvented her career and started her own menswear label, Jack Lee Australia, after noticing a gap in the market in menswear. Two of her main clients included Crown Towers Melbourne and Como The Treasury. Crown Towers approached Jacki-Lee to design and manufacture luxury pyjamas to use as gifts for their clientele and subsequently purchased 2000 pairs as their first order.
In her role with her menswear label, Jacki-Lee collaborated with the McCusker Alzheimer’s Research Foundation to create bespoke shirts to fundraise for the charity, as well as The Fathering Project to showcase her menswear.  In early 2020, she was a board member of Celebrate WA and a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

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Ara Salomone (Casella '01)

Ever since she can remember, Ara wanted to work in the field of architecture, which is no surprise, given that her father was a respected building designer and master builder.
After graduating from St Mary’s, Ara completed a Bachelor of Science (Architecture) from Curtin University and a Master of Architecture (Honours) from the University of Western Australia.
In 2010, she took over from her father in their family business and became a Director of Anthony J Casella Designs, which had been operating since 1971. Ara then transformed and re-branded her father’s legacy to create AJCD, a design studio that was a true reflection of her own individual philosophies and ideals.
Ara is passionate about Perth and is consistently looking to contribute to the urban fabric of the city. She has now joined forces with her husband and his family, who are all just as passionate about architecture and interior design as she is, to create State of Kin, a company which designs and builds cutting edge and innovative spaces. Ara’s own home, called “The Brick House”, which she designed and built through State of Kin, was received to great acclaim at Perth’s Open House event in 2019.
Ara’s passion and outstanding architectural innovation will ensure that Perth’s streets will feature many examples of interesting and beautiful architecture.

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Madge Thomas (Mukund '01)

Madge is proud of her Perth roots and the grounding, ethos, and foundation for learning she gained at St Mary’s. Madge graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a Law/Arts degree (Honours) in 2006. She completed her legal training in a commercial law firm where she became entrenched in pro-bono projects and built a criminal law practice, ultimately running a pro-bono murder trial with one of the State’s top barristers.
 Madge was offered a position within the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) Civil and Human Rights team, where she led high profile cases, including the first ‘Stolen Generations’ class action in WA, and she represented ALS at the United Nations in New York. She then relocated to Canberra with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Upon her return to Perth, Madge joined the State Department of Aboriginal Affairs, where she was appointed Acting General Counsel, and led a cabinet review on Aboriginal Affairs.
In 2015, Madge and her husband left Australia for New York, where she consulted as a business and human rights expert and then joined Global Citizen, a global advocacy movement that generates billions of dollars from world leaders to end extreme poverty. She served as Global Citizen’s Vice President of Global Policy and Government Affairs until 2020, leading incredible projects on girls’ education, climate change and gender equality with Michelle Obama, Rihanna, Hugh Jackman, Julia Gillard and more.
Last year, Madge was offered a position with UNICEF’s Education Cannot Wait Fund and, since she joined in February 2020, has worked to help educate vulnerable children in conflict and crisis settings by engaging business giants like Lego and Verizon in the response to emergencies including COVID-19.
Madge continues to participate on community boards and serves as a mentor to aspiring global leaders within the Obama Foundation’s global scholars’ program.

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